Group C of the ELEAGUE Street Fighter Invitational 2018 is now in the books, and Mousesports|Problem X and RISE|Smug have qualified for the playoffs and a chance at $250,000 on July 13. Group C was the only ELEAGUE group without a Japanese player — and had the most American players, with four. Also featuring Echo Fox|Justin Wong, F3|Brolynho, RB|Snake Eyez, and NuckleDu, Group C is also the only group in which every player qualified for the 2017 Capcom Cup.
Speaking with Shoryuken on Thursday, members of Group C talked about the inconsistent nature of open bracket Street Fighter V tournaments, and the benefits of being able to prepare for an invitational event like ELEAGUE. Problem X said the ELEAGUE format favors more stable characters with the extra games and preparation, compared to traditional tournaments where an unknown match-up can quickly become a loss. Justin Wong explained that this is particular threat for well-known players, because there is so much data available on their habits and play-style when compared to the average player. Problem X explained that another less obvious factors in open bracket is that you don’t necessarily have to beat all of the best players to progress.
“There might be players that you can’t beat, that you don’t have to play,” Problem X said. If somebody else takes out that player, that allows you to have an easier route to the grand finals now, if you had that demon you could never beat.”
He continued, “At these invitationals there’s no avoiding nobody, and if you can’t beat certain players then that’s pretty much it for you.”
Problem X used a mix of M. Bison and Abigail to qualify on the winners side of Group C, defeating RB|Snake Eyez and Smug in the elimination bracket. Prior to group play, Problem said he wanted to break the “EU curse” by becoming the first European to qualify for the playoffs this year — and mission accomplished! Both NVD|Phenom and RB|Luffy had winning records in their groups, but failed to qualify in the elimination bracket. Together the three European players in ELEAGUE went a combined 15-7 in group play, including both the round robin and elimination bracket matches.
RISE|Smug is the only Balrog player out of the 24 ELEAGUE competitors, and was forced to overcome multiple counter-picks in the elimination bracket to qualify for the playoffs. Though Balrog is known for explosive damage, grapplers like Abigail and R. Mika can easily exploit his lack of wake-up options. All three of Smug’s losses in Group C came against Abigail, played by either Problem X or Snake Eyez. After losing 0-3 in the winners bracket, Smug made the necessary adjustments to clutch out a 3-2 set against Snake Eyez in losers finals.
Before the event, Smug talked about Balrog’s struggle with grapplers, and his own trouble facing NuckleDu’s R. Mika.
“My playstyle doesn’t give him trouble, only because he plays a character that dominates my character. I have to work like 3,000 times harder than him, so I feel like he’s always at an advantage in the match-up every time we play,” he told Shoryuken on Thursday.
During their last tournament encounter in May at Texas Showdown, NuckleDu eliminated Smug with a score of 3 to 1. But through two close sets on Friday, NuckleDu’s attempts to counterpick were unsuccessful. After his elimination NuckleDu said it was difficult to find high-level Balrogs to practice against, since Smug is one of last players sticking with the character in Season 3. With both players representing the Street Fighter IV generation of the American Fighting Game Community, each new encounter between the two adds to one of the more playful rivalries in Street Fighter V.
RB|Snake Eyez has entered just two Capcom Pro Tour events so far this year, but showed up to ELEAGUE in top form to earn the best record in the round-robin. Snake Eyez made the decision to drop his signature Zangief for good last year, making a transition to Akuma with a mix of Abigail for certain match-ups. Though his Abigail came up short against Smug, Snake Eyez’s preparation for Group C was clear throughout the day, and he certainly proved that he is still in the upper echelon of American Street Fighter.
Justin Wong has made his own character transition to Menat, and it has paid off with four top 8 finishes on the CPT so far this year. The other players in Group C viewed Justin as one of the biggest threats coming into the day, due to Menat’s ability to control the pace of the game and Justin’s uniquely lame style. Wong’s style puts his opponent’s patience to the test, but he struggled to defend himself against the aggression of characters like Balrog, Cammy, and Necalli. While Justin’s execution with Menat has been a running gag, his V-Trigger confirms look to be getting sharper — and there’s plenty of potential left for Wong to explore with the character.
Though he has consistently represented Brazil at international events, Brolynho was the Group C player with the least exposure coming in, and one of the few top Necalli players remaining. Necalli’s stock has fallen with Street Fighter V’s balance changes, but Brolynho makes good use of the character’s toolset. Though he struggled to find wins during the round-robin, Brolynho kept up an aggressive style throughout his matches, challenging zoners like Guile and Menat to force him to stay put.
The ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational returns this Friday at 3:00 PM ET on Twitch for Group D.